The Madness Club

They called it the Madness Club.  They met every other Thursday down at the old Metropolitan Hotel, a five-star extravaganza long gone to the seeds of a one-star dive.  Still, the old conference room was cheap to rent, and if one could keep from succumbing to the ambient scents of ancient cigarettes, alcohol and mildew, the atmosphere in the Met’s conference room was rather homey.

I didn’t know much about the so-called Madness Club the first night that I was invited to attend.  I also didn’t really have any clue why I was asked to attend, but Eric Benchly, my roommate at the time and president pro tem of the Madness Club, thought that perhaps an evening with the Club would be a welcome change from my usual after-hours repertoire.  Online games, cold beer and reheated leftovers from whatever lunch I’d been able to scrounge during my hectic day apparently either didn’t rate very highly as a social activity to Eric or was prime contender material for a membership in the Club.  Either way, after a modicum of needling, I decided to chuck the stale Mexican take-out I’d brought home, grabbed my coat and followed Eric out the door.

Once we were seated, Eric introduced me around.

Monica was in her late teens, had dyed black hair and wore a velvet corset.  She announced that she was a manic-depressive.

Steve was in his early twenties, wore his bleach-blond hair in spikes and had spiked leather cuffs on his wrists.  He announced that he suffered from satyriasis. Someone coughed not-so-quietly at this.

Alan was in his late teens, his hair dyed black, his long coat wrapped tightly about his spare frame.  He announced that he too suffered from satyriasis.

Bethany was perhaps no older than sixteen, her auburn hair was undyed but was done up in an archaic style that matched her archaic black dress.  From behind school-marm glasses she announced that she was bipolar.

Sara stated that she was sixteen, had blue plastic strips tied in her dark hair, wore silver goggles strapped to her head and kept a pocket watch in a tight, velvet vest.  She wore a red cravat.  Along with her age and name, she announced that she suffered from psychotic tendencies.

I was beginning to see a pattern here.

Eric, of course, had no need to introduce himself yet he did.  As usual, the twenty-three-year old programmer had his head shaved, wore a stylized, sleeveless straight-jacket and, like Monica, was manic-depressive.

That left me.  Mike, twenty-nine, wore his hair short, his tie loosened and his slacks pressed.  Although never diagnosed, was certain he suffered from hyper-tension and figured he would have an ulcer by thirty-one.  The rest of the district attorney’s office still called him Rook.

I smiled at all of them then looked at Eric.  “Why am here?”

“Come on, Mike,” Eric smiled nervously.  “We figured you might like hanging out with us.  Something different for a change.”

I laughed then glanced at my watch.  “Eric, you’re not a trained therapist which means this is nothing but a social circle.  That means that in an hour and a half at least two of your friends will be breaking curfew.  Now I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve got a long day tomorrow.”

“Look,” Monica cut in, “you’re an over-worked, under-paid lawyer.  Eric thought that maybe you’d like to unwind here tonight.”

“With the Madness Club,” I said.

“Mike, please,” Eric said.  “Look, we need your help.”

“What?”

Eric glanced around him at the young, gothed-up faces.  He looked back at me, his mouth open.  Yet before he said anything, he glanced away and clamped his mouth shut.

Sara cleared her throat, made a show of checking her pocket watch then glancing at the closed conference room door.  “We really do need your help,” she said.

“It’s about one of our members,” Steve said.

They glanced at each other and I could tell that behind their pretentious, arrogant collective mien, they were all very nervous.  I looked at Eric who had his eyes down cast, avoiding me.  Then one of them spoke—I don’t remember who.  You would think that in my line of work I would be able to pay attention to what people say, but, to be honest, what was said was so absurd that I think I virtually erased the memory.

A tiny voice said, “She’s raising zombies and she’s gonna come after us.”

The whole room was silent for a long time and then it dawned on me.  “Is this your larping group, Eric?  Cause this isn’t very funny.  You know I don’t role-play.”

Eric was on his feet, his face beet red.  “This isn’t a game, Mike!  We’re fucking serious here!  We’re in danger and we need your help!”

“With zombies?!”  I asked, on my feet as well.  Eric was a good guy, a pretty decent roommate.  When my fiancée and I had split three years ago, I’d advertised for a roommate to help split the rent she’d left me with.  Eric had applied and he’d moved in.  We both liked computer games, science fiction and German industrial.  He liked table-top and live-action role-playing games.  He also liked ecstasy and pot, but although the games were allowed at the house, the drugs were not.  An up-and-coming DA could only turn his head so far.

Now this.  I studied Eric for several moments.  He was serious.  He was angry and he was scared.  If he had come to me like this with a problem with drugs, a deal gone bad or something, it would have made sense and I wouldn’t have walked away.  But this was not drugs or money or whatever.  This was serious psycho stuff.  Zombies.  These kids, my roommate included, had gone over the edge.  Maybe they really did have the mental illnesses that they wore as monikers and maybe that altered reality had brought them to the Met’s conference room, but I didn’t care.  Maybe it was drugs and I still didn’t care.  I growled at Eric that we would talk about this when he got home.  Then, with the pleas and shouts of the Madness Club following me, I stormed from the room.  I’d had to shrug off more than one grasping hand on the way out, but I did.

And as the door closed, God help me, I heard sobbing coming from that room.

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~ by liberdementia on March 8, 2009.

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